Don’t miss the solar eclipse in South America in 2020

By Australian Geographic 22 November 2019
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Over the course of human history, total solar eclipses have held people spellbound. Peter Anderson explains.

One of nature’s greatest phenomena!

Total solar eclipses are arguably the most spectacular natural phenomena. Unlike their lunar cousin, which are visible from the whole hemisphere of the Earth facing the Moon, a total solar eclipse is only very briefly visible along a narrow track. 

Occurring somewhere in the world at around 18-month intervals, total solar eclipses have a certain allure. Over the course of human history, they have held people spellbound. 

Historically, they’re associated with great events, portents of good or evil, foreshadowing’s of things to come, forebodings, precursors of great disasters, often symbolic of death and rebirth.

For me, I often wonder if it is the event itself or if it’s the combination of the eclipse and the opportunity to travel to often exotic locations to view them. 

Perhaps the following perhaps sums it up best.

Imagine yourself in the path of totality of an imminent total solar eclipse.  The partial phases become increasingly interesting as the sun narrows to a thin crescent, and the light and temperature drop.  An hour after the Moon first notches the solar limb, the thin crescent reduces to a few brilliant points that promptly vanish. In the gloom, the bright pink lower atmosphere of the sun around the solar limb (the chromosphere) becomes visible briefly before being blotted out by the advancing Moon.  As your eyes become adapted to the dark, the fine streamers of the corona following the magnetic lines of force can be appreciated. These extend outwards for several solar diameters. The surroundings are dark but the distant horizon around the whole 360° is brighter like dawn or dusk! The totally eclipsed sun, that has been described as ‘the eye of God’, hangs in the sky.

You will soon notice that the side from which the Moon encroached is getting brighter. The chromosphere on the opposite side comes into view to be soon followed by a brilliant point or points of light, more obvious now at the end of totality, with dark adapted eyes. This is the ‘diamond ring’ of the sun shining through low lunar valleys on the limb. The protective glasses used during the partial phase must be quickly donned again as these points link up to form an exquisitely thin brilliant crescent, which grows as the Moon slowly moves off the solar disc taking around an hour to depart.

Australia has had its share of total solar eclipses – south-west Western Australia in 1974, the Mt Gambier area in South Australia, across Victoria and far southern New South Wales in 1976, Ceduna and desert South Australia in 2002, Arnhem Land in the NT and far north Queensland in 2012, and the forthcoming eclipse clipping North West Cape of WA on 20 April 2023. A much-awaited eclipse on 22 July 2028, will race diagonally across Australia from the Kimberley to Sydney.

Recently it has been South America’s turn.  On 2 July 2019, the eclipse track across the Pacific barely touched any land before sweeping the La Serena area in Chile, conveniently including several professional observatories situated atop the dry inland ranges.

Next year on 14 December, the track again sweeps across the Pacific and South America but will be considerably further south. There the Sun is conveniently much higher in the sky – in fact it is close to midday at totality. In the path are the town of Pucón and the nearby 2847m classic snow-capped volcano Villarrica in the lake district of Chile. Being a distance from the coast, weather prospects in this area are better, and Pucón was chosen by Eclipse World Tours as its viewing spot. The site selected, the Papagoyo Cabanas & Lodge on the northern bank of the Pucón River, will provide a comfortable and private location to view the eclipse. Here the eclipse begins at 11.41am, is total for 2 minutes and 8 seconds (from 1.03pm), and ends by 2.32pm Chilean Summer Time. Prominent coronal streamers, a feature of solar minimum eclipses such as 2006, and July this year, are again expected.

During totality the fully-eclipsed Sun will be plainly flanked by bright Venus 24° to the west and Jupiter 36° to the east. Perhaps Saturn, near Jupiter at 37° east, may also be glimpsed. Mercury, just 3° west of the Sun, is unlikely to be visible.

Join Eclipse World Tours in South America in 2020 for this total solar eclipse. For further information and brochure contact Eclipse World Tours, or call Dick on 0416 502 344 or Graham on 0419 529 229.

There are three trips on offer.

12-day Lakes, Mountains & Eclipse

A shorter scenic tour of Argentina and Chile, culminating in a total solar eclipse in Pucon, Chile on 14 December 2020.   All international and domestic airfares are included in the price.

Dates:  8-19 December 2020

Price:  $9985 (twin share)

22-day Western Explorer

A unique itinerary including Chile, Bolivia and Peru culminating in a total solar eclipse in Pucon, Chile on 14 December 2020. All international and domestic airfares are included in the price.

Dates: 28 November to 19 December 2020

Price: $12,415 (twin share)

32-day Grand Tour

This tour of South America includes Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil and Argentina, and culminates in a total solar eclipse in Pucon, Chile on 14 December 2020. All international and domestic airfares are included in the price.

Dates: 18 November to 19 December 2020

Price: $17,435 (twin share)

Call Eclipse World Tours Richard on +61 416 502 344
Email [email protected]
Visit Eclipse World Tours  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Peter Anderson has been President of the Astronomical Association of Queensland and its predecessors on five occasions since 1966. His interests include solar eclipse trips and for 40 years he has carried out astronomical research from his home observatory in Brisbane.